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Web Sites

London Public LibraryIn the past, we’ve posted about Google Street View, a subset of the Google Maps service which lets you explore places around the world through 360-degree, panoramic, and street-level imagery. But did you know that now Google Street View is now offering their service indoors as well?

Since late 2011 Google has been offering interior tours of buildings via their Street View technology. Businesses can voluntarily access the program and Google’s photographers will schedule a photo shoot inside the building. Some of the earliest adopters of this new service have been bookstores and libraries.

The website Ebook Friendly has an informative and interactive post where you can learn more about the program and then tour 10 libraries which have already been given the Street View treatment.

In related news: two DeKalb County Public Library branches (Decatur and Salem Panola) are now available through Google’s new indoor Google Maps project–not exactly Street View, but similar. It allows you to see a floor plan of the inside of the library, with different sections of the library labelled clearly. Also, since this feature is still in beta, some of the details may still be buggy, and the labels may look different depending on the mobile device you are using. More branch floor plans will become available soon.


npm2013_logoSo tax day came and went and I hadn’t even given a thought to the fact that April (in addition to being National freakout about W2s Month) is also National Poetry Month. I’ve written more seriously about NPM before (here and here), but this year I wanted to loosen up a bit and share a few fun/funny experiments with you.

A coworker sent me a link to Times Haiku, a site which collects serendipitous poetry from The New York Times. As you may remember from gradeschool, the basic definition of a haiku is 5/7/5. Syllables, that is (though if you want to get all technical, the Japanese have other requirements, and the syllable count isn’t exactly accurate nor that important in modern day haikus). Anyway, the website finds sentences in The New York Times that conform to this 5/7/5 structure and posts them. Some are even surprisingly poetic:

Optimism fills
their lives, though there are degrees
of optimism.

If you’re interested in learning and reading more about haikus, check out this slim volume of traditional Japanese haikus: Cricket Songs. Here’s one I like from that book.

Broken and broken
again on the sea, the moon
so easily mends.

Speaking of serendipitous poems, Pentametron is a website that generates sonnets taken from random Twitter feeds. It uses a computer algorithm to find tweets that conform to the iambic pentameter line. Then it lines up 14 of these tweets in a row so that they rhyme. The result is often quite nonsensical, interesting, and every once in a while, even poetic. See for yourself:

Selena Gomez has a pretty face
Another day, Another paper chase!
Just seen the biggest fattest bumble bee ☺
Ya allah, ada ada aja si (˘̩̩̩⌣˘̩̩̩)

Did you appreciate yourself today?
replay replay replay replay replay
Pray always, lazy never ever do.. :P
Another day, another interview!

@Fly_kidd_11 kindly follow back
Another sleepless night! #Insomniac
I couldn’t even stand a while ago. “/
I’m not a very social person though.

Im salter then a Lays potato ship
I’m itching for another Cali trip…..

Hmm… not Shakespeare, but I guess it will do. If you’re in the mood for poetry in April, check out these poetry events at the library.


Apr 1 2013

Dewey’s Read-a-Thon

by Jencey G

24 Hour Read A ThonDewey’s Read-a-Thon is a 24 hour reading challenge that takes place on April 27. To participate you need a computer to access the Dewey’s Read-a-Thon website and Facebook page. Then you will need that stack of books you have been dying to read. Finally you will need to pick food and drink with tons of caffeine to keep you going during the evening hours.

What do you do during the challenge? You read. You also update your blog intermittently with comments about your reading experience during the challenge. This often qualifies you for prizes. There are also challenges from book bloggers that include everything from crosswords to title scrambles. There’s even an opportuniy for you to raise money for charities.

Dewey’s Read-a-Thon was started in 2007 by a woman who was left alone while her husband and son went to a 24 hour Comic Day. She to use those 24 hours to read and blog about it. She died in 2008, but the Read-a-Thon lives on, run by the women who helped her carry it out twice a year.

I look forward to this year’s challenge. I hope that you will join me!


Mar 27 2013

Best Free Reference Websites 2012

by Jesse M

Alphabits TV AdBack in 2009 I posted about the Reference and User Services Association’s (RUSA) list of the best free reference websites of the year. Since several years have elapsed, I decided to investigate the 2012 list to see what new and useful reference websites were being featured. Here were some standouts:

Fans of the popular television series Mad Men and nostalgia buffs generally may be interested in Adviews: A Digital Archive of Vintage Television Commercials. Access thousands of historic commercials created for clients or acquired by the D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles (DMB&B) advertising agency or its predecessor from a period ranging from the 1950s through the 1980s.

Art lovers rejoice! Google Art Project brings the art to you by linking to thousands of works of art across 30 institutions in the US and worldwide! Just choose a museum from the homepage and then use Street View technology to virtually explore the museum or click on specific works of art and zoom in to view them in high resolution.

Fans of truecrime books may enjoy browsing through The Vault, a repository of thousands of declassified FBI documents including memos, reports and other materials spanning several decades. While some words and passages have been redacted to protect identities or sensitive information, a plethora of dossiers are available on both well known and minor criminals as well as such notable figures as Steve Jobs, Elizabeth Taylor, George Steinbrenner and even the pop group the Monkees. Please note: Some material contained in this site may contain actions, words, or images of a graphic nature that may be offensive and/or emotionally disturbing. This material may not be suitable for all ages. Please view it with discretion.

And finally, a great resource for students, educators, and anyone interested in viewing country-by-country statistical data, the World Databank offers a wealth of statistics gleaned from databases maintained by the World Bank. World Development Indicators (WDI) provides data across many categories such as education, the environment, health, and poverty, while Global Development Finance (GDF) provides statistics about the economic and financial health of countries. The site is easy to use, just plug in the country or countries, the statistics of interest, and the years needed.

Want to see more reference sites from previous years? Check out the combined index of lists from 1999-2012.


Mar 22 2013

Massively Educational

by Jimmy L

edXA few months ago I took a course taught by a University of Pennsylvannia professor. Although the class had over 28,000 students, I often received personal answers to my questions from one of the many TAs (teacher’s assistants) and occasionally even from the professor himself. My classmates were smart and discussions were lively. The assignments and quizzes were illuminating. I didn’t have to jump through any hoops or prerequisites to enroll, and best of all, I paid nothing for it.

You may already know where I’m going with this since you may have already heard of MOOCs before (or taken one, even). MOOCs, which stands for Massive Open Online Courses, are becoming increasingly popular these days, and although there are some differences, most MOOC sites offer high quality university level education for free on a huge range of subjects.

If you’re interested in MOOCs, there are several currently offering interesting classes:

Coursera — Although the website is .org, Coursera is actually a for-profit company with an idealistic view of free education for all. (I’m not sure how they plan to make money in the future, but for now the classes are free). It is among the largest of the MOOCs and currently offers classes from computer security, economics, ancient Greece, and property and liability law (just to name a few).

Udacity — born out of Stanford University in 2011, Udacity quickly grew to be a platform for free online courses. Currently they are offering courses on statistics, computer science, physics, building a startup business, and many others.

edX — unlike Coursera or Udacity, edX is a not-for-profit enterprise. Founded by MIT and Harvard University in the Fall of 2012, they have plans of making their learning platform an open-source solution that other educational institutions may use for their courses. Currently they are offering courses on biology, quantum mechanics, computer graphics, copyright law, and many more.

Each one of these MOOCs operates differently, and each course is also run differently, depending on the professor’s style, so it would be wise to read up on their policies before enrolling. Although MOOCs sometimes offer certificates upon completion, these are still not universally recognized. For a much longer list of MOOCs and other online educational websites, please check out this post.

Have you taken a MOOC or plan to? What are your experiences with them?


Mar 6 2013

Threads of History

by Dea Anne M

Fifty Years of FashionPeople who haven’t known me very long are sometimes surprised to learn of my deep and abiding interest in clothes and fashion design. Day to day, I wear what basically amounts to a type of uniform—cardigan sweaters and pullover tops in various colors paired with dark trousers. It’s a system that works well for me and it makes rushed mornings a little easier since everything mixes with everything else. In my leisure time however I’m a devoted fan of fashion magazines and personal style blogs. What really fascinates me though is fashion history. Louis XIV, a fashionable monarch if ever there was one, famously said “Fashion is a mirror.” a statement with which I would have to agree. Think of the safety pins and black leather of 70’s punk culture or the uniform style of Communist China as examples of the way dress can reflect cultural and ideological change. As designer Katherine Hamnett has said, “Clothes create a wordless means of communication that we all understand.”

A fun blog that I’ve recently discovered is Threaded, Smithsonian magazine’s source for sartorial history. Here you’ll find well-written analysis of such fashion phenomena as the rise of the flapper in the 1920’s, sequins, and James Bond’s dinner jackets. Another very worthwhile site is The Fashion Historian. Katy Werlin, the historian, is a very engaging writer with an impressive depth of academic knowledge about clothing design and history. Her post on the Little Black Dress is worth a look just by itself. Also, very worthwhile is Wearing History. Blog mistress Lauren is a witty observer of fashion’s changing face. She’s also an incredibly talented seamstress with a taste for vintage fashion. Check out her re-creation of a blue corset from an 1877 Manet painting or the jacket based on an 1899 pattern and prepare for awe and amazement. Finally, I must mention Of Another Fashion. Its subtitle is “An alternative archive of the not-quite-hidden but too often ignored fashion histories of U.S. women of color.” This wonderful digital history features photographs (often of the donors’ mothers or grandmothers) of women and the clothes they wore. It is a gorgeous and fascinating look into the role fashion has played in the lives of American women of color. Don’t miss the photograph of Lucille Baldwin Brown. She was the first African-American librarian in Tallahassee, Florida and, judging by the photograph, possessed impeccable style. More proof that librarians are awesome!

Do you too enjoy the historical aspects of fashion? If so, DCPL has resources to help you indulge and learn.

Fifty Years of Fashion: new look to now by Valerie Steele is a must for any devoted student of clothing design. Steele is the current director of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology and is a widely respected historian of fashion. The book appeared in 2000, so the most recent designers are not featured, but you will still gain a lot of great knowledge. Also by Steele are Paris Fashion: a cultural history and Women of Fashion: twentieth-century designers

gunnMost of us know Tim Gunn from Project Runway but he also served on the faculty at Parsons The New School for Design for many years and was the chair for the school’s department of fashion design. His book Tim Gunn’s Fashion Bible: the fascinating history of everything in your closet is a fun, very readable account of the antecedents of every sort of garment that we wear today. From jeans, to belts, to gloves, Gunn illuminates clothing history with his trademark wit and strong opinions (he really hates capri pants!).

styleA few more notables resources are Fashion by Christopher Breward and A Survey of Historic Costume by Phyllis Tortora and Keith Eubank.

Finally, I will mention a book that is a personal favorite of mine The Power of Style: the women who defined the art of living well by Annette Tapert and Diana Edkins. Not a history of fashion per se, it is nonetheless an entertaining collection of profiles of 14 women who embodied the very meaning of style throughout the 20th century. Some of the subjects will be familiar to most of us: Jacqueline Kennedy, Coco Channel, the Duchess of Windsor but others will be less known such as Rita Lydig, Daisy Fellowes, and Mona Bismarck. In any case, all these women led fascinating lives and were living embodiments that the quality of “style” goes far beyond wearing the latest designer. Highly recommended!


Feb 4 2013

Informed Citizen

by Amanda L

GovTrackOver the last few weeks the Georgia General Assembly and congress have gotten back to work creating and passing laws. Years ago, the only way to find out what these legislative bodies were working on or the “hot” topics for the year was through the press or in the case of congress, the Congressional Record. As with anything in today’s society, raw information is available almost instantaneously and is searchable.

On the national level, the place to find this information is GovTrack. This website allows you to follow legislation through the legislative branch. You can see what is on the docket for the current week, laws that have recently been enacted, passed resolutions and active legislation all from the front page.

To research more in depth, you can browse by subject or  search for a particular legislation. There are statistics for each of the Congresses on how many laws they have enacted, how many resolutions were passed, how many bills were sent to the president, how many inactive legislative actions there was for a session, how many legislative bills failed and how many were vetoed by the president. If you click on the number within each category of legislation, the details about the legislation will display. So for example, if I clicked on  active legislation for this congressional session (113th), it would list and display information on all five current active bills in front of congress.

Interested in congress specifically and not legislation? This website allows you to locate your senators and representative by providing your address. The site allows you to see how each senator and representative voted on any legislation or resolution. If there is a related bill that went through the Legislative branch it will link to that bill also and give you voting records. What I love most about this site is that you can search how congress voted all the way back to the 1st Congress.

The State of Georgia has a website that allows you to follow legislation through the General Assembly. It is not as comprehensive as the federal site for historical purposes but to be an informed citizen, it is useful. On this website daily you can see what is on the agenda for the General Assembly. There is a list of first reads of bills for both the House and Senate. Within the list, you can tell which legislative person was involved in the introduction of the bill and the actual wording of the bill. The website also lists how each State Senator and House of Representative voted on a bill.


Dec 28 2012

The Year in Pictures

by Jimmy L

Sometimes it’s hard to look back and remember everything that happened in the past year. But The Guardian has posted 19 beautiful photographs that sum it up pretty nicely, from the athletic feats at the Olympics to the election night moments in November. And this one, taken in Hoboken, New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy wrought its destruction:

Floods in Hoboken

A similar collection of iconic 2012 photographs is also up at the World Press Photo site. Dedicated to understanding the world through photojournalism, the site holds a yearly contest in several different categories including General News, People, Sports, Daily Life, Portraits, and many more. The following photo was the winner in the Nature category, and shows a desperate polar bear who has climbed up on a cliff face, trying (unsuccessfully) to feed on eggs from the nests of guillemots, in late July.

Cliff-climbing polar bear attempting to eat seabird eggs


Nov 9 2012

Windows – More Than Glass

by Veronica W

Looking out a side window at work, I see… a liquor store. I’m in a new location, in a new building, with a new view (seen from soaring windows). If I’m here for any length of time, I will become used to seeing the folks who go in and out to buy “refreshment” and will no longer be surprised at how often and how early they need to be refreshed. When I look straight ahead, I see lovely trees, which would normally soothe my soul—except they’re crisscrossed by power lines. After awhile, I will stop being annoyed by that. Right now, however, my eyes can’t help being drawn to the ever changing, fascinating life and drama going on outside.

How many of us, when we go away, want a room with a view? If we go to the beach, we want an ocean front room. In the mountains, we crave a panoramic vista while standing on our balconies (hotels know this and charge accordingly).  I personally love clear, star studded night skies and can only imagine what the view is from a space shuttle window. I wish someone would tell me where I can go outside the city to see the night sky uncontaminated by electric lights.

There are so many places to which we can escape,  if we have the time and the resources, so many views which would stun us into awed silence. When we have no time and limited funds, we can take second best and see them in books or online. I discovered a site that I keep revisiting, because when I visit it, I can sit and imagine myself there. Here is an all time favorite. I’m sure my acrophobia would not bother me there.

The Tiger’s Nest (or Paro Taktsang Monastery) clings like lichen to rocky cliffs in Bhutan’s Paro Valley and creates an awed silence among visitors, broken only by the sound of rustling prayer flags and chanting monks”

In my travels through the library stacks, I came across a charming book entitled The Best Place. It’s the story of a wolf who has a wonderful view from his screened porch but is convinced to sell his house and go in search of a better view. The surprise ending will delight you.

According to Elizabeth Barrett Browning,  “Earth is full of heaven…but only he who sees takes off his shoes.”  Take a look out of your window…or from your screened porch. What wonder-full view do you see?


Oct 10 2012

Share Your Shelf

by Jesse M

What does your bookshelf say about you? According to Peter Knox, creator of the tumblr Share Your Shelf and author of a recent Guardian article on the subject,

Your bookshelf is an intimate physical representation of your accomplishments (titles as trophies earned), aspirations (that ever growing to-read pile), associations (that book your boss gave to each employee), personal development (those self-help titles that urged you to talk to strangers), guilty pleasures (50 shades of beach reads), escapes (sci-fi to some, travelogues to others), memories (meeting that author, visiting that indie shop on vacation), [and] interests (the bigger the Star Wars fan, the more Star Wars books)…And that’s just the ingredients – how you organise, arrange, and display these titles should impart even more insight as to a reader’s personality.

As Knox says, “sharing your shelf is sharing yourself”, and he created Share Your Shelf to provide a forum for people to do just that. Launched just last month, the blog has already received hundreds of submissions, proving that there is definitely an appetite for this literary variety of show and tell. Go here to submit your own (and feel free to leave a link in our comments so other DCPL readers can see what you have on your shelf!)